Why I prewash ALL my fabric

Something I never used to even think about was why new clothes all have that same weird new clothes smell. It wasn’t until I started doing research into the labels and fabric I use to make clothes that I realised how many different toxic chemicals are used in the production line of fabric. I’m definitely not being a preacher about this topic, like I said it wasn’t something I’d even considered before I started making clothes. I think we all do the best we can with the information we have at that time, and then once we know better we do better.

Now I won’t get all sciency and start naming the amounts of different compounds and that are used (I’ll include a few links where some experts have already done that) but suffice to say it’s shocking. The yarn, the dyes, the ink and then the treatments after the fabric is made so that its easier for the factory workers to sew. Then it’s treated again so that the finished garments stay relatively crease free. I think the chemical that sticks in my mind is Formaldehyde, mainly because I remember it from watching all those crime shows with my Mom, it was what they used to preserve the dead bodies with. YUK. Apparently it’s used quite a lot too.

These chemicals that are left on the garments you buy from the clothes shops are in pretty high doses UNLESS that company has committed to using supplies that have been certified to be within the safe recommended limits. Baby clothing has the highest restrictions of chemical usage placed on it, followed by childrenswear. The problem is majority of the major clothing outlets don’t use certified suppliers and knowingly sell clothing with unsafe levels of toxic chemicals, because as you may have guessed, it’s cheaper to do this.

You can reduce the risk of negative reactions and effects from these chemicals by prewashing all the clothing you buy in store. One of the studies I’ve linked to show that with each wash cycle the amount of toxicity is reduced. I mean if possible you’d want to wash the thing like at least 4 or 5 times but that’s not always feasible.

So I get to my actual point of this post which is that I now make a point to only buy fabric that has been certified through by the major certification bodies, OEKO-TEX and GOTS for example. And I ALWAYS prewash the fabric I have bought before I even store it with the rest of my fabric so I remove the possibility of cross contamination (Ok maybe I’m getting slightly paranoid now but better to be safe right?). Most decent seamstresses will prewash their fabric before cutting anyway because they know that fabric is liable to shrinkage but I now wash it on an extra length warmer wash cycle just to make sure I’m getting as much of the chemicals out of it as I can before sending it to a customer.

All of the items I make are designed to be worn close to the skin and I’m making a concerned effort to protect my customers and my own family as much as I possibly can by making sure that my fabric is all within the safe levels and washing it just in case 🙂

Links to actual proper things:

Here is the full study of garments purchased all over Europe from varying sources. Physical and Chemical Exposure Unit Chemical Release from Textiles

And here are some other interesting things to read not the topic if you’re bored or whatever 🙂

Oeko-Tex info sheet

The Guardian: Phasing out the toxic chemicals in children’s clothing

Greenpeace Detox My Fashion campaign details

Organic Clothing Blog



One reply on “Why I prewash ALL my fabric

  • MrsBakesALot

    A great post and reminder to wash fabrics before use or clothes before wear. I caught the habit from my mum that after you buy something you must always wash it but I never thought about why…I thought it was just her “thing”. But it turns out there was wisdom in her choices and I am glad I still do this.

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